Space is the next frontier where billionaires-turned-space barons will vie for a pie of the paying customer’s wallet. Many billionaires are competing to usher in a new era of private commercial space travel for the rich.
Just a few hours before billionaire Richard Branson took his first-ever historic flight to the ‘edge of space’ on July 11, Blue Origin, incubated by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, launched a marketing campaign to highlight why it provides a better experience to space travellers.
Without naming Branson or Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin took a dig at its peer, saying its New Shepard rocket has been designed to fly above the Kármán line (globally recognised frontier of space) saying “For 96 percent of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up at the internationally recognized Kármán line.”.
Bezos congratulated Branson and his crew in tweets. He will join the club soon as his space flight schedule is on July 20.
What is this fad for space tourism?
American millionaire Dennis Tito was the first space tourist, who in 2001, paid $20 million to ride on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to visit the international space station and spent eight days there.
Just seven other private citizens travelled to space until 2009. Less than 600 astronauts and global citizens have gone into space so far.
What is the industry size?
Swiss investment bank UBS estimates the space tourism market could be at around $3 billion per annum by 2030, as per a Reuters report.
UBS estimated around 1.78 million rich people are there with a net worth over $10 million another over 3.5 million rich have net worth of $5-$10 million across the world. This pool of billionaires across the world could be the major customers of space travel.
How much one needs to spend to book a seat?
Virgin Galactic claims over 600 advance bookings priced at approximately $250,000 per seat. But only 150 may travel onboard VSS Unity in 2022.
Virgin Galactic can begin full commercial space flights in 2022 and eventually hopes to reduce the ticket price sharply to around $40,000, according to Reuters.
Blue Origin could charge passengers around $200,000 (not official), but reports indicate that this could go up post their new recent campaign.
While Elon Musk’s SpaceX hasn’t disclosed any specifics but a 10-day flight to the International Space Station (ISS) would entail $350,000 per person with NASA getting $35,000 per person.
Contours of visit and preparation for travellers
Astronauts travel at 7.7 km per second. Unlike astronauts, space travellers only need to sit back, relax, pay attention and enjoy the ride. A space traveller need to be physically and mentally fit as one may feel a little giddy or feel the spinning.
The spacesuit and the helmet could weigh around 50 kg.
Start preparing at least a year before and do your stretches and eat nutritious meals. Visit a doctor to ensure that you are fit for the flight.
The gravitational forces during launch and re-entry are not very intense. Train yourself for a weightlessness experience, which comes from zero-gravity flights (which are cheaper than space tourism) wherein an aircraft flies in a series of arch-like shapes.
Space travellers can also try scuba-diving (at least 12 metres underwater) for weightlessness training. Spacewalk requires more detailed training.
Since the space travel flight is just a few moments, plan what you intend to do and how to savour the experience (even 3D IMAX doesn’t capture it the way you will see it). Learn to click photos quickly while enjoying the view.
If you intend to spend more days in space, travel light. Be prepared for some bumps and slight bruises, unless there is a major accident. You can make a mess of things during the daily routine.
Conditions aboard a space station are controlled at approximately 22 degrees Celsius and 60 percent relative humidity. With 16 sunrises a day, you will get power naps, not normal sleep.
What do they eat?
Space travellers will get packaged modified food but allergen-free formats are not available. Fresh fruits and vegetables have to be eaten within 48 hours. One can enjoy freeze-dried ice cream and fluids. The travellers can also get space burritos, modified kimchi and tubes of borscht.
The travellers can enjoy space-grown lettuce and other produce from NASA's in-the-works veggie farm.
Other billionaires in space
Russian-Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner, incubated Breakthrough Starshot, which eyes interstellar space travel at one-fifth the speed of light, courtesy hundreds of lasers that can “propel” a solar sail.
American billionaire Jared Isaacman (of Draken International) will hire a SpaceX flight and intends to fly with three more people around the earth in 2021. This personal trip will help raise $200 million for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, wherein he will personally contribute 50 percent.
As part of his dearMoon mission, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and eight others (who will fly free) will circle the moon on a SpaceX flight in 2023.
Chinese billionaire Li Shifu (chairman of Geely, which owns Volvo) invested in GeeSpace, a sci-fi structure in China’s Xinjiang region.
Robert Bigelow, the owner of the hotel chain Budget Suites of America, invested in company Bigelow Aerospace (produces space modules).